PaperPusher – an openTTD newGRF (mod) concept

After a year, I am back! Recently, I have really gotten into openTTD. This is the modern, open-source version of Transport Tycoon Deluxe from the 1990s. It’s a game where you build train, ship, plane and road vehicle networks around giant maps that have towns that grow in accordance with your levels of service. It’s an amazing project (and free!), I strongly recommend you check it out and download it at this website: I’d be happy to play! Also, check out a couple of my screenshots below:

Benfingpool-Drindham rail yard. Note the high speed through rails.
A network I made.

Because the game is open source, it is highly moddable. It got me thinking, can I finally make the game about central planning information costs that I had dreamed of in a previous post? I’ve set out to learn! Below is my concept sheet for this mod. Looking to collaborate!

PaperPusher: openTTD newGRF concept

High level concept:

This newGRF introduces a bureaucracy/knowledge supply chain to openTTD with different types of economic information as a cargo. Industries will require instructions from company central headquarters in order to produce their respective cargos. Processing plans and paperwork becomes essential to the economy of the gameworld. Central planning isn’t free!

What inspired this?:
The idea is a meta-commentary about the role a player plays in openTTD, especially in single player: YOU are the central planner. I am interested in the idea of there being a cost of central planning that affects production and therefore growth. This newGRF requires that economic information be processed (data, annual production plans, orders etc.). 

The inspiration comes from the story of the failed implementation of networked, digital central planning in the USSR. The idea is that a centrally planned state (or corporation) can become overwhelmed with information if it does not become more efficient at processing the deluge. Without finding a way to deal with the flood of information, any organization can eventually grind to a halt.

How will it be implemented?:

  • This will be implemented as newGRF, with different types of information as cargo and a couple of new industry buildings related to the chain.
  • Intended to be used with a simple economy (with passengers) like improved town industries, and a gamescript like renewed village growth which indicates demands for growth.

Where does information come from?:

  • Information is generated by houses and industries
    • Houses generate orders (think SEARS catalog)
    • Industries generate raw production data alongside their products
  • Information (orders & raw data) is processed by your HQ & Regional Offices
    • Your HQ is the centrepoint of your operations. All information MUST flow through here in order to be processed.
      • Must be placed within a city.
    • Regional Office 
      • Must be placed within a town
  • Information is used by industries to start initial production and greatly enhance production afterward. 
    • I.e. you can’t use an industry until it has received a directive, afterwards it will always produce, albeit at a much higher rate with a plan.
  • Professionals are required for the operation of your HQ & Regional Offices
    • Professionals are a cargo generated by Colleges supplied with Passengers

How do I use information?:

  • Transport economic information in a staff car, private plane or helicopter, or business class rail car. 
    • Industries require directives from Regional Offices.
      • Analogous to “engineering supplies” in other newGRFs. Enhanced by PAPER.
    • Industries produce raw production data.
      • Transport back to HQ greatly improves the production of annual plans. Enhanced by PAPER.
    • Homes generate orders.
      • Supply of end products back to home can increase the generation of their orders (demand). Accepts paper.
    • HQ’s produce plans.
      • For an HQ to produce plans, it requires a constant and significant stream of professionals from colleges and raw data from industries. 
      • Annual reports are a secondary produced cargo, and can be delivered back to colleges to improve their production of professionals. (Training)
      • Enhanced by PAPER.
  • Transport through passenger vehicles
    • Colleges produce professionals.
      • Delivering passengers to colleges increases the production of professionals.
      • Enhanced by PAPER.
  • General flow
    • HQs produce a trickle of plans when not supplied (1-10 a year)
      • But they never produce huge amounts of plans even when fully supplied.
    • Regional offices require few (1-5 a year) and turn this into a bounty of directives.
    • Industries require a lot of directives, but regional offices create lots and lots of them.
    • However, HQs require A LOT of production data, A LOT of Orders, and A LOT of professionals.
  • Time scale:
    • I would like to see this happen on a “5 year strategic plan” basis – ie regional offices only require a plan every 1-5 years. This would be an interesting mechanic in my opinion. The rest would be highly frequent, and production of plans by HQ would be very, very slow and very very minimal.

Optional Complexity:

  • Introduce supply chain for textbooks to improve College throughput (forest -> paper -> printing press)
  • Introduce supply chain for research institutes (integrated with textbooks) to produce computer code for computerized HQ as well as knowledge to improve textbooks.

Anticipated game narrative

  1. Found HQ in central city
  2. Collect orders from surrounding town and towns (market research)
  3. Identify where the colleges are on the map – create commuter line to supply HQ
  4. Identify the industry chain that you want to start with (ie probably one that increases the size of your HQ city.)
  5. Build regional offices to service directives to all industries on the chosen chain
  6. Send your staff car to deliver your first 5-year plan from HQ to regional office to kickstart the various factories’ production
  7. EXPAND openTTD style as usual with an eye to your information-communications infrastructure as your network complexifies
  8. Build a paper industry to enhance production of information.
  9. (optional) Build research centre to increase professionals (and later for computers)
  10. Build computer supply chain and supply headquarters for unlimited growth (high cost)

Potential Endgame Goals:

  • Computer supply chain – fund industries to build computers and computer code in order to improve the processing of HQ and regional offices. 
    • Alleviates potential bottleneck to unlimited production endgame.

How does this improve gameplay?:

  • Enhances functional purpose of the company HQ building
  • Creates multiple subclasses of mail cargo (is this possible?)
  • Creates another layer of gameplay integrating passenger, mail and industrial cargos.
  • Due to low volume and differing frequency requirements, it encourages use of low capacity vehicles infrequently.
  • Endgame gives players something to race against – build up enough money and industry to develop a computer supply chain to alleviate the planning bottleneck
  • Creates a much slower supply chain that must be managed at different timescales
  • Layers on top of existing supply chains.

Anticipated Challenges

  • Vehicle refits – just use mail as this instead?
  • What is a newGRF vs what is a gamescript of this concept?
  • Cargodist- I think the idea is to have these as manual. Would asymmetric work or what challenges does this create?
  • Balancing and flow – still needs to be well modeled before creation

Potential Expansions / Scenarios:

  • Babbages difference engine – steampunk Victorian era with computers
  • Cybersoviet – xussr towards the creation of the Soviet Internet
    • Integration with newGRF WIRES to transmit information?

To do:

  • Model in Machinations & Update diagrams in Miro

question, agree or disagree

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